Who are the greatest in the history of Illinois high school football?

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Who are the greatest in the history of Illinois high school football?

How about a backfield with quarterback Otto Graham, halfbacks Red Grange and Buddy Young and fullback Mike Alstott?

Running behind an offensive line that includes Dennis Lick, Mike Kenn, Alex Agase, Jim Juriga and Tim Grunhard?

With Graham throwing passes to Kellen Winslow, Jordan Westerkamp and Bob Trumpy?

And a defense featuring linemen Simeon Rice, Dave Butz, George Connor and Bryant Young, linebackers Clay Matthews, Dick Butkus and John Foley and defensive backs Al Brosky, Abe Woodson, Johnny Lattner and George Donnelly?

You might win a few games with that bunch, right?

Are they the best football players in Illinois high school history? If not, who would you name to the all-time team? Were the players in the 1940s and 1950s comparable to the players of the 1980s and 1990s?

Longtime Illinois high school sports historian Robert Pruter reminds that many college and NFL Hall of Famers were not high achievers in high school.

Some, such as Tony Canadeo of Steinmetz, Vic Markov of Lindblom, Leo Nomellini of Crane, Pete Pihos of Austin and Hugh Gallarneau of Morgan Park, never made the Chicago Public League all-star list.

Another, Ray Nitschke of Proviso, was an All-State selection as a quarterback in 1953. He became a linebacker at Illinois and went on to become a Hall of Fame linebacker with the Green Bay Packers.

Kellen Winslow wasn't an All-Stater on East St. Louis' state runner-up in 1974. But he starred at Missouri and in the NFL and has been inducted into the college and NFL Halls of Fame.

Chris Hinton of Phillips wasn't named to the All-State team in 1979. But he was an All-American at Northwestern and played in seven Pro Bowls as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

And what about Clint Frank of Evanston? Born in St. Louis, he graduated from Evanston in 1933 and went on to star at Yale and become the third recipient of the Heisman Trophy in 1937.

One former Chicago-area product who is making a name for himself is tight end Owen Daniels of the Houston Texans of the NFL. But Daniels was a highly regarded quarterback at Naperville Central before being converted to tight end at Wisconsin.

So who are the best players at each position?

QUARTERBACKS

Otto Graham, Waukegan, 1938; Sean Price, Maine South, 2003; Donovan McNabb, Mount Carmel, 1993; Dusty Burk, Tuscola, 1997; Chuck Hartlieb, Marian Central, 1983; Mike Tomczak, Thornton Fractional North, 1980; Jon Beutjer, Wheaton Warrenville South, 1998; Kent Graham, Wheaton North, 1986; Kurt Kittner, Schaumburg, 1997; Zeke Bratkowski, Danville Schlarman, 1948; Tommy O'Connell, South Shore, 1947; Hiles Stout, Peoria Central, 1952; Ken Anderson, Batavia, 1966; Mark Carlson, Deerfield, 1975; Jim Finks, Salem, 1944; Juice Williams, Vocational, 2006; Antwaan Randle El, Thornton, 1996; Tim Brasic, Riverside-Brookfield, 2001; Jeff Hecklinski, Palatine, 1992.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Otto Graham. Post-1960: Jon Beutjer.

RUNNING BACKS

Red Grange, Wheaton, 1919; Buddy Young, Phillips, 1943; Mike Alstott, Joliet Catholic, 1991; Bill DeCorrevont, Austin, 1937; Walter Eckersall, Hyde Park, 1903; Jim Grabowski, Taft, 1961; Rashard Mendenhall, Niles West, 2004; Jimmy Smith, Kankakee Westview, 1978; Otis Armstrong, Farragut, 1968; Billy Marek, St. Rita, 1971; Lamarr Thomas, Thornton, 1965; Jim DiLullo, Fenwick, 1962; Bob McKeiver, Evanston, 1951; Leroy Jackson, Bloom, 1957; Ron Bess, Bloomington, 1963; Charley Hoag, Oak Park, 1948; Ryan Clifford, Naperville Central, 1999; Pierre Thomas, Thornton Fractional South, 2001; Johnny Karras, Argo, 1945; Scott Dierking, West Chicago, 1972; Fritz Pollard, Lane Tech, 1912; Hickey Thompson, Belleville Althoff, 1990; John Dergo, Morris, 2005; Ira Matthews, Rockford East, 1974; Wayne Strader, Geneseo, 1976; J.R. Zwierzynski, Joliet Catholic, 1999; Dan Dierking, Wheaton Warrenville South, 2006; Chris Moore, East St. Louis, 1991; Alvin Ross, West Aurora, 1980; Darryl Stingley, Marshall, 1968; Corey Rogers, Leo, 1990, Al MacFarlane, Taft, 1960.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Red Grange, Buddy Young, Bill DeCorrevont.
Post-1960: Mike Alstott, John Dergo, Billy Marek.

RECEIVERS

Kellen Winslow, East St. Louis, 1974; Jordan Westerkamp, Montini, 2011; Bob Trumpy, Springfield, 1962; Dempsey Norman, Tilden, 1983; Jon Schweighardt, Wheaton Warrenville South, 1998; Jason Avant, Carver, 2001; Nate Turner, Mount Carmel, 1986; Arthur Sargent, East St. Louis, 1985; Tai Streets, Thornton, 1994; Jimmy Smith, Blue Island Eisenhower, 1972; Cas Banaszak, Gordon Tech, 1962; Don Stonesifer, Schurz, 1945; Emery Moorehead, Evanston, 1972; John Wright, Wheaton Central, 1963; Chris Calloway, Mount Carmel, 1985; Ken Carrington, Richards, 1994; Dave Kocourek, Morton, 1954; Rich Kreitling, Fenger, 1954; Johnnie Mitchell, Simeon, 1988; Don Beebe, Kaneland, 1982.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Don Stonesifer, Dave Kocourek. Post-1960: Jordan Westerkamp, Jon Schweighardt.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Alex Agase, Evanston, 1939; Jim Juriga, Wheaton North, 1981; Mike Kenn, Evanston, 1973; Tim Grunhard, St. Laurence, 1985; Dennis Lick, St. Rita, 1971; Flozell Adams, Proviso West, 1992; Bill Fischer, Lane Tech, 1944; Eric Steinbach, Providence, 1997; Larry McCarren, Rich East, 1969; Chris Hinton, Phillips, 1979; Dick Barwegan, Fenger, 1938; Alf Bauman, Austin, 1937; Dave Diehl, Brother Rice, 1998; Ryan Diem, Glenbard North, 1996; Doug Dieken, Streator, 1966; George Musso, Collinsville, 1929; Mike Rabold, Fenwick, 1954; Lou Rymkus, Tilden, 1940; Tom Thayer, Joliet Catholic, 1978; George Trafton, Oak Park, 1916; Jeff Riney, Sterling Newman, 1990; Brian Bulaga, Marian Central, 2006; Chris Watt, Glenbard West, 2008; John Horn, Joliet Catholic, 1990; Tony Pape, Hinsdale South, 1998; Jeff Alm, Sandburg, 1985; Paul Glonek, St. Laurence, 1985; Art Riley, Thornridge, 1970; Ziggy Czarobski, Mount Carmel, 1941; Brad James, Lockport, 1985; David Molk, Lemont, 2007; Mike Jones, Richards, 2001; Tony Pashos, Lockport, 1998; Will Matte, Wheaton Warrenville South, 2007; John Sawin, Vocational, 1955.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Alex Agase, Bill Fischer, Dick Barwegan, Mike Rabold, Ziggy Czarobski. Post-1960: Dennis Lick, Tim Grunhard, Mike Kenn, Jim Juriga, Eric Steinbach.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

George Connor, De La Salle, 1941; Simeon Rice, Mount Carmel, 1992; Dave Butz, Maine South, 1968; Bryant Young, Bloom, 1989; Russell Maryland, Whitney Young, 1986; Keena Turner, Vocational, 1975; Matt Roth, Willowbrook, 2000; Alex Magee, Oswego, 2004; Chris Boskey, St. Francis de Sales, 1977; Kurt Bankson, East Leyden, 1977; Scott Zettek, St. Viator, 1975; Cleveland Crosby, East St. Louis, 1974; Tim Marshall, Weber, 1979; Chris Zorich, Vocational, 1986; Nolan Harrison, Homewood-Flossmoor, 1987; Don Thorp, Buffalo Grove, 1979; Rob Ninkovich, Lincoln-Way Central, 2001; Joe Krupa, Weber, 1951; Oliver Gibson, Romeoville, 1989; Frank Kmet, Buffalo Grove, 1987; Al Wistert, Foreman, 1938; Ed Beinor, Thornton, 1934; Earl Banks, Phillips, 19041; Leo Nomellini, Crane, 1941; Bill Pasko, Weber, 1959; Larry Kristoff, Carbondale, 1959; Jerry Rosengren, Leyden, 1957; Mike Wolfe, Mendel, 1957; Charles Ulrich, Fenger, 1947; Wayne Bock, Argo, 1952; Ralph Jecha, Argo, 1951; Pat Lennon, Joliet Catholic, 1952; Bob Lenzini, Waukegan, 1949.

Best of all: Pre-1960: George Connor, Joe Krupa, Al Wistert, Leo Nomellini. Post-1960: Dave Butz, Tim Marshall, Bryant Young, Chris Boskey.

LINEBACKERS

Dick Butkus, Vocational, 1960; Clay Matthews, New Trier, 1973; John Foley, St. Rita, 1975; Tony Furjanic, Mount Carmel, 1981; Ed Brady, Morris, 1979; Tyjuan Hagler, Bishop McNamara, 1999; Eric Kumerow, Oak Park, 1982; Dana Howard, East St. Louis, 1989; Bill Burrell, Clifton Central, 1955; Carl Brettschneider, Dundee, 1949; Erick Anderson, Glenbrook South, 1986; John Holecek, Marian Catholic, 1989; Pete Bercich, Providence, 1989; Mark Zavagnin, St. Rita, 1978; Napoleon Harris, Thornton, 1996; Brock Spak, Rockford East, 1979; Don Dufek, St. George, 1946.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Dick Butkus, Carl Brettschneider, Don Dufek.
Post-1960: Clay Matthews, John Foley, Tony Furjanic.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Al Brosky, Harrison, 1945; Abe Woodson, Austin, 1952; Johnny Lattner, Fenwick, 1949; George Donnelly, De Kalb, 1959; Dwayne Goodrich, Richards, 1995; Mike Mallory, De Kalb, 1980; Gary Fencik, Barrington, 1972; Ken Gorgal, Peru St. Bede, 1945; Tom Zbikowski, Buffalo Grove, 2002; Preston Pearson, Freeport, 1963; Mike Prior, Marian Catholic, 1980; Jack Bastable, Wheeling, 1968; Greg Turner, Driscoll, 2003; Kelvin Hayden, Hubbard, 2000; Quinn Buckner, Thornridge, 1971.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Al Brosky, Abe Woodson, Johnny Lattner, George Donnelly. Post-1960: Jack Bastable, Mike Prior, Dwayne Goodrich, Kelvin Hayden.

How Cubs plan to deploy Javier Baez in the playoffs

How Cubs plan to deploy Javier Baez in the playoffs

CINCINNATI – Using common sense and Geek Department probabilities, Joe Maddon wants to know where the ball should be hit before deciding where to play Javier Baez, the kind of elite defender the Cubs manager envisions when he talks about creating a Gold Glove for super-utility guys. 

“I just like to put him where the most action may be,” Maddon said. “He really provides a lot of coverage on slow rollers. He’s got the arm. He’s got the flair.”

With lefty Jon Lester facing a Cincinnati Reds lineup stacked with right-handed hitters, Maddon started Baez at third base on Saturday at Great American Ball Park, where the Cubs gave a potential sneak preview for their Game 1 playoff lineup.

Baez has been credited with 17 Defensive Runs Saved this year while moving between second base, shortstop and third base, putting together a package of highlight-reel plays and giving Maddon even more freedom with his lineup and in-game strategy.

If offense will be at such a premium in the postseason – putting an even stronger emphasis on pitching and defense – could Baez become an everyday player in October?

“Not 100 percent,” Maddon said. “You catch a lead, he’ll be in the game. I think that we still may go with an offensive matchup – and then hopefully grab a lead – and then get him in there. Do that kind of a thing, not unlike what we did last year with ‘Schwarbs’ (Kyle Schwarber), as an example, (where you) pull him and move everything around.

“I haven’t decided, but that would be my first inclination.”

[SHOP: Buy a Javier Baez jersey]

The Cubs lead the majors in defensive efficiency, a breakthrough that has contributed to 102 wins and helped Lester and Kyle Hendricks put up Cy Young Award-worthy numbers, giving this group an overall dimension that could separate them from the franchise’s previous playoff teams.

“That’s where our pitchers have just been able to relax,” Lester said. “(We) know that: ‘Hey, I don’t have to be so perfect with each pitch.’ We’ve got such good defense behind us that it’s kind of like: ‘OK, just hit it. Those guys will figure it out after that.’”

DeShone Kizer not perfect, but clearly meets the standard for Notre Dame

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DeShone Kizer not perfect, but clearly meets the standard for Notre Dame

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — DeShone Kizer wasn’t perfect, but exact perfection probably doesn’t matter much when you take a flamethrower to something.

That something was Syracuse’s secondary in Notre Dame’s 50-33 win over the Orange Saturday at MetLife Stadium. Kizer threw for 471 yards, 55 short of Joe Thiesmann’s program record and the most an Irish quarterback has ever thrown for in a win. He threw touchdowns of 79, 67 (both to Equanimeous St. Brown) and 54 yards (to Kevin Stepherson) and averaged 13.5 yards per attempt.

Still, what Kizer and coach Brian Kelly were more pleased with was how he played in the second half. Back-to-back quick-strike scoring drives — Kizer connected for that 54-yard touchdown to Stepherson, which Dexter Williams followed with a video game-like 59-yard touchdown run — put the game out of reach awfully quickly after a rocky end to the first half.

“The first half, yeah, you get a bunch of highlights throwing the ball down the field and having one play, two-play drives,” Kizer said. “What we need right now is a way of being sustainable on defense and offense. The second half is a good example of that.”

Kizer didn’t play mistake-free football, though. He missed an easy touchdown when he overthrew a wide-open Stepherson in the first half, and the sack he took late in the second quarter knocked Notre Dame out of field goal range — after which Brisly Estime returned Tyler Newsome’s punt 74 yards to set up an Orange touchdown. And things threatened to get worse when Kizer threw an interception with under 30 seconds left, setting up a Syracuse 40-yard field goal that Cole Murphy missed.

[MORE NOTRE DAME: Defense leaves New Jersey with good vibrations]

Kelly said Kizer tried to do too much late in the first half, but stopped pressing and trying to put the team on his back after those two mishaps.

“That was the conversation I had with him was DeShone, we need to get three points there, you’re trying to do too much,” Kelly said. “And he has a tendency to want to do too much, put too much pressure on himself. And he’s gotta stop doing that. I told him, you do enough. What I liked about him in the second half was that he dropped the ball down, took the easy completions, made the smart decisions and I think he needs to continue to do that. I thought the second half showed the kind of things I was looking for him to do.”

The things Kizer did right emphatically overcame those mistakes. He threw a number of fantastically-placed passes over the middle and consistently looked for easy check down throws. He got both tight ends — Durham Smythe and Nic Weishar — involved in the offense. He rushed for a touchdown, too, his sixth of the year. 

So in front of a bunch of NFL scouts at an NFL stadium — where Kizer could, of course, be playing on Sundays next year — the Notre Dame quarterback turned in yet another strong performance. This time, though, it was good enough to get his team a win.

And it wasn’t perfect, as Kizer was quick to note after the game, but he’ll head back to South Bend pleased with what he did and where he can go from here. 

“This is the sloppiest 50 points I’ve ever been a part of, the sloppiest 400-plus pass game I’ve ever been a part of,” Kizer said. “And I think that’s the best part of about. We’re having fun, we’re having a good time, and there’s still so much room to improve. To come out and play the way we played and have the amount of fun that we had and still know there’s a lot of work to be done, I couldn’t be happier.”